1. What led you to study public policy at CEU?
After earning my undergraduate degree in anthropology, I decided, after considering job prospects and the amazing experience of my 2012 internship in the New York State Senate, to pursue an education in preparation for a professional life in the realm of policy-making. I knew if I wanted to have a meaningful voice in the public policy apparatus, even if only at the conference table, I'd need not just a higher education credential but also the knowledge and social capital I could acquire from a public policy higher education experience. CEU's Department of Public Policy programs included a practical component: internship or policy labs, and that's what I wanted. I was also attracted by the university's generous financial aid packages and by the fact that it seemed that the admissions panel wouldn't pay much attention to my standardized test scores. And in Professor Dr. Liviu Matei, Professor Dr. Marvin Lazerson, and former CEU Professor Dr. Jana Bacevic I saw an opportunity to complete my MA research at the intersection of public policy, higher education, and anthropology.
2. What do you remember most about your time at CEU?
So many memories come to mind: ethics debates that originated in classrooms and spilled out into the halls and onto the streets. That special moment of selling a painting. Performing with the Kőbányai Symphony Orchestra. Hangouts with my pals, including my girlfriend. Parties at Bambus Bar and playing tennis and football at the Residence Center. Defeating professors during the Faculty-Student football tournament on Sports Day, thanks to Zeleke Temesgen, and whoever passed him the ball! Last-minute wonder goal! Receiving news that my short stories were being published. I miss all the silliness: my girlfriend and I chasing each other throughout the dormitory: we're ticklish. As a member of the Student Union Assembly, I was motivated to run for a seat in the Senate by what I saw as discrepancies and ambiguities in CEU policy documents regarding the definition of plagiarism. Winning the election meant a lot to me, and I am glad to have served in the Senate with fellow student representatives Thiago Amparo and Rumbidzai M. Masango.
3. What have you been engaged in professionally since graduating from CEU?
After graduating in summer 2014, I flew back to New York to complete a one-year fellowship in the NY State Senate. After that, I joined the staff of Senator Bill Perkins as a legislative assistant policy analyst, recommending legislative and political positions, helping constituents solve life issues (housing, employment), and organizing, participating, and representing the office in community events. My first major project was organizing a January 2016 public hearing regarding the state of NYC services for people with intellectual/developmental challenges. Aside from that, I always joke that I am a professional PhD student since I work daily (nightly?) on my independent research on the European Union's Roma-integration public policy process, preparing for conferences and publication submissions. I presented at the 13th International Conference on Persons in summer 2015, at the 2016 annual conference of the Gypsy Lore Society, and at the 2016 annual conference of the American Anthropological Association. I've also published a chapter in the philosophical volume "In the Sphere of the Personal" and I'm preparing a manuscript for the Gypsy Lore Society's Romani Studies
4. How have your policy studies at CEU contributed to your career?
I would say my studies ignited my passion to be more critical of public policy in my day-to-day job. I became interested in the tension between the private subjective lives of individuals and public policy while completing an internship at the Roma Education Fund (REF) in fulfillment of the compulsory practical component of my degree. Reading in the REF archives and speaking with colleagues there, I learned how poor Roma are often not consulted when public policy initiatives intended to "integrate" them are being defined, and how that in turn reproduces their alienation and marginalization. I saw something similar happening in New York City, where, for example, homeless shelters are built for people many of whom prefer to seek shelter in what they feel is the safer sanctity of public parks. Today, my recommendations to the senator on whether or not to support a piece of legislation depends heavily on whether or not I believe the legislation has been designed with and/or will really benefit the people who called for it or who are the intended targets. I've also been pursuing PhD opportunities where I could explore the relationship between private life and public policy.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself completing my PhD, while still working full-time in the legislature. That would be ideal.
6. Do you have any advice for current students?
Take full advantage of services like the Academic Writing Center. There's no feeling worse than having a mind filled with brilliant thoughts and not being able, for whatever reason, to put them down coherently onto a blank sheet of paper. The Academic Writing Center can really help; grab a hold of its services and your writing will improve! Also, having the right thesis supervisor could help make or break your future pursuits. It's thanks to my supervisor Prof. Matei that I've been able to formulate my inchoate intellectual/academic interests into concise research projects on which I've presented and published. Take your relationship with your supervisor seriously.
7. What is your favorite thing to do in Budapest?
Whenever I return to Budapest, I try not to miss an opportunity to participate in Professor Peter Molnar's 'Hate Speech Monologues' and visit the CEU Library or the Open Society Archives. If I'm missing New York City swagger, I try finding it at Budapest's museums and the Budapest Jazz Club.